Sign & Digital UK will return to Birmingham’s NEC from 2 – 4 April, with over 185 exhibitors, an array of top speakers and a roster of dedicated events and focus areas. Here’s a selection of what to see.

Portfolio director Rudi Blackett says of Sign & Digital UK 2019, ‘This year’s show is bursting at the seams. It’s three days dedicated to helping visitors level-up their business.

‘There will be inspiring talks and topical panel debates in the Main Stage theatre and two live demo areas – Décor Live Demonstrations and Retail is Detail. This year we’re introducing a zone dedicated to digital signage, we’re hosting the UK Hexis wrap battles and some major product launches. We’ll also be running our ever-popular educational workshops and Adobe and Corel software theatres.’

‘Content is becoming increasingly important at this event. In recent times there’s been a clear emphasis on user applications, and SDUK visitors are keen to see what’s possible in terms of output and to be inspired with creativity. It is no longer a visit to see what kit is available, it’s now about what you can do with the output from those products. Demonstrations and practical workshops are key elements of the show now.

‘Beyond the supplier-led live demonstrations and practical workshops, there’s also a real demand for business advice and inspiration as the current challenging market continues to impact the industry. This year, the Main Stage will offer some seminars presented by business experts, meaning our visitors will be able to benefit from top business advice and have their questions personally answered.’

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AXYZ Automation Group will demonstrate its Trident print finishing system


Most interesting for many attendees of course, will be the companies showcasing their latest products, technologies and capabilities. Here, Digital Printer brings you a selection:

Agfa is partnering with its resellers i-Sub Digital and Josero, inviting visitors to ‘Step Up’ their printing capabilities with wide-format solutions.

Kettering-based i-Sub is a wide-format digital print specialist and will be demonstrating Agfa’s 3.2m hybrid Anapurna H3200i LED along with the full suite of options in the Agfa Asanti production workflow. Cambridgeshire based Josero, which offers an extensive portfolio of products for the wide format market, will be exhibiting Agfa’s smaller sibling, the 1.6m hybrid Anapurna H1650i LED with Asanti Render, Agfa’s entry-level workflow solution.

‘Agfa has a long history of working closely with channel partners in the printing industry and we are proud to be supporting both I-Sub Digital and Josero at Sign & Digital 2019,’ explained Bobby Grauf, sales manager for inkjet at Agfa. ‘Their input helps Agfa to create the right solutions for the UK market and visitors to this year’s exhibition will experience this first-hand. We will be exhibiting both ends of our Anapurna printer spectrum for the first time at this show. Both models are driven by Agfa’s award-winning Asanti workflow and both have Agfa-made UV LED inks on board. This makes each solution a ‘Step Up’ in terms of productivity, quality and cost-of-ownership.’

Meanwhile AXYZ Automation Group will demonstrate its Trident print finishing system, incorporating a triple-head configuration and comprising a high-performance routing spindle and tangential/ oscillating knife-cutting units.

Key design features of Trident include a rigid solid steel frame to better accommodate more vigorous machine operation, an exclusive live vacuum deck for optimum material hold-down efficiency and an integrated helical rack and pinion drive system. This latter feature incorporates a multiple gear teeth configuration that ensures more even distribution of the workload, greater routing/cutting precision, faster material throughput and ultimately a longer-than-normal machine life. Readily interchangeable 120mm long blade attachments provide increased cutting efficiency when processing harder, thicker and heavier materials.

AXYX will also promote its 24/7 online spare parts, accessories and software facility. This accommodates the requirements not only of AXYZ router owners but also those of any other make of machine, regardless of type and country of origin.

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i-sub will be demonstrating Agfa’s 3.2m hybrid Anapurna H3200i LED Printer

Nottingham-based specialist wide format print distributor ArtSystems has announced it will focus on the latest innovations in retail signage during the three days of the show, as part of the Retail is Detail thread.

The company will be exhibiting cutting-edge products from key vendors including printers from HP, cutting tables from Summa and RIP and workflow technology by Onyx, and will highlight the advantages of integrated print workflows for the production of retail signage. Supporting this, the stand will also feature HP, Neschen and Sihl media brands – and showcase the high-quality output possible with these specialist media ranges.

Charlotte Crampton, workflow development manager for ArtSystems, explained, ‘We wanted to show the flagship print and print finishing solutions of HP and Summa, and demonstrate why – with the HP Latex R2000 and the Summa F1832, both driven by Onyx 18.5 – it’s the perfect combination.

‘This allows us to illustrate the true benefits of a fully integrated workflow around a specific set of retail signage applications.’

Cutting specialist Graphtec GB will be demonstrating selected machines from its portfolio at the NEC. These will include examples from the CE and FC series of cutting/plotters and the F-Mark automatic digital die-cutting system.

The CE6000 series of vinyl cutters includes the Lite-50 and Plus machines. Both are described as ideal low-cost entry-level solutions, with the former, now priced at under £700, bridging the void between the traditional craft and commercial sectors and the latter providing new machine enhancements to better accommodate higher volume production. The FCX2000 supports combined cutting and creasing, while the FC8600 offers a ‘Best in Class’ combination cutting speed and force .

All of the cutters incorporate Graphtec’s proprietary ARMS (Automatic Registration Mark Sensing) system for optimum material alignment and cutting accuracy and ship with Graphtec’s own Pro Studio and (optional) Cutting Master 4 software that enables Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw integration. Graphtec Pro Studio is based on the popular FlexiSign family of design and production software, developed by software specialist SAi for which Graphtec GB is a distributor in the UK and Ireland.

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All of the cutters Graphtec will be showcasing include the Automatic Registration Mark Sensing system

Demonstrating its colour management products for automated colour matching and ink optimisation will be GMG Color, whose ColorServer is suited to signage and large format print applications in which it aims to provide consistent results across different ink and printing processes, devices and substrate types. Software features that will be demonstrated on the stand include automated conversion of RGB, CMYK and mixed image colour data into one output colour space, making manual conversion of multiple image files unnecessary. A new capability in the latest release of ColorServer is adjustment of a digital printing machine to a custom input colour space via GMG SmartProfiler, to improve accuracy of colour reproduction.

Visitors to the show can also hear GMG colour expert Paul Bromley present on the Main Stage in the panel session on print workflows. Head there on Thursday 4 April to find out more about colour matching across devices and substrates, automating colour management within your workflow, and cutting consumables usage while improving colour results – plus your chance to ask questions.

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Kew Green Hotels use 3M DI-NOC films at Ibis Styles Crewe Hotel

Debuting three new products in April will be Mimaki’s UK and Ireland distributor Hybrid Services. The high performance Mimaki TS55 dye sublimation textile printer for soft signage, retail graphics, fashion and sportswear will make its first UK appearance. There will also be the unveiling of two new Mimaki inks: the recently announced metallic LED UV ink for the Mimaki UJF-7151plus, suitable for high-end graphics for packaging, small- to mid-format signage and bespoke décor and giftware, and also a clear ink option for the popular UCJV300 Series LED UV printer/cutters.

‘Production printing is a core theme for the Hybrid stand at Sign & Digital UK this year,’ stated Brett Newman, chief operations manager at Hybrid. ‘Across Mimaki’s range of solvent printers and integrated printer/cutters, LED UV roll-to-roll and flatbed machines and a host of textile and dye sublimation technology, we’re able to deliver a production solution for print companies, whatever their volume requirements. Reducing lead times, increasing profitability, removing barriers to entry and delivering high quality output with the minimum of user intervention – all run centrally to Mimaki’s innovative approach.’

Ricoh UK will be showcasing its latest inkjet printers, both roll-fed and flatbed, including a new latex printer, a new smaller UV flatbed and a new mid-range direct-to-garment printer.

The company’s presence at Sign & Digital UK 2019 is part of its global Ignite strategy to expand into display printing via inkjet applications and follows on from its participation at Fespa 2018.

‘As with our hugely successful approach to the commercial print market, we’re looking to help wide format sign and display printers to increase their margins, keep ahead of the competition, and improve customer satisfaction,’ explained Simon Issacs, national sales director, adding, ‘Our customers tell us they value our partnership approach because we are helping them through their analogue to digital transition. They know we are there to support them all the way, beyond the technology in how they can use it to create new products and services. We’re looking forward to translating that to the Sign & Digital audience, for whom we’re sure we can make a positive difference.’

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William Smith will be showing solutions from Squid

Following more than a year of intensive development, Roland DG will be displaying a number of its printers in Birmingham. These will include the VersaExpress RF-640 8 Colour, which was previewed at last year’s event. The printer has an additional four ink channels for additional primary colours, which allows it to accurately reproduce up to 99% of Pantone+ Solid Coated colours which. This year’s show will see an upgrade of the RF-640.

Additionally, Roland DG’s first direct-to-garment printer, the VersaStudio BT-12, will be on display. Described as user-friendly, affordable and compact textile printing solution, this model allows users to print directly to t-shirts, tote bags, cushion covers and any other cotton-based textile in a matter of minutes. Roland will also be displaying its headline print-and-cut offering, the TrueVIS VG series. As well as inspecting the new machines and output samples, visitors will also have the chance to speak to members of the Roland DG team and get advice on all aspects of wide-format digital printing.

Spandex will showcase swissQprint’s Impala, a UV LED flatbed printer from the high-end Swiss manufacturer. The latest model adds further developments to the printer including a brand new control system and a dual-roll printing option. swissQprint’s modular flatbed systems allow customers to ‘build’ their machine to their specific business needs, which includes nine freely configurable colour channels, supporting white ink, varnish, primer and other options.

‘With a swissQprint machine, customers can take on a much wider variety of jobs, ranging from standard hoarding signs to luxury retail graphics, without needing to invest in multiple pieces of equipment,’ expanded swissQprint product manager Steve Pridham. ‘swissQprint is constantly evolving its systems and the improved material handling on roll-to-roll as well as the dual roll option, makes this machine even more versatile.’

Spandex’s stand will also feature a wrap section, dedicated to Arlon, where Spandex will be demonstrating Arlon SLX Cast Wrap and the IllumiNite Wrap both with Flite Technology as well as a brand new product being seen for the first time in the UK.

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The Mimaki Ts55-1800 textile printer will feature on the Hybrid Services stand

Trotec will debut two new devices at the show. One is the most recent addition to the budget end of its laser cutting range, the R500, and the other is an as-yet-unannounced ‘next generation’ model.

The entry-level R500 offers a 1300 x 900mm working area and is best suited to cutting applications in signage, model-making and prototyping. It can cut acrylics and wood up to 15mm thick, as well as common signage materials including paper and textiles. Trotec says the unit’s ergonomic design and large viewing pane facilitate loading, unloading and inspection of work in progress.

In addition to the laser cutters, Trotec will bring its range of sheet materials to the show, including recent additions such as glitter and mirrored acrylic, TroCraft Eco biodegradable fibre board and a new plastic laminate designed specifically for digital printing.

William Smith will be showing examples from its range of architectural finishes and wall/window decoration films. These include solutions from 3M, for which the company is the largest UK stockist and distributor, Avery Dennison, Cover Styl’ and Squid.

The Squid Window Textile Film is the latest addition to the company’s materials portfolio. A transparent woven polyester fabric, it can be applied to any size and shape of flat window or glass partition. In addition to preserving privacy, the film allows the entry of natural light during the day whilst reducing UV transmission. Available in five solid colours, the film has a MI/BI fire rating and can be printed by UV and inkjet processes, with a latex-compatible version to follow soon.

For interior and exterior architectural finishes 3M DI-NOC is a range that replicates hundreds of different materials including wood, metal, stone, leather, marble and concrete. There is also a range of architectural films from Cover Styl’. Available in hundreds of finishes, the films are especially suitable for interior applications.

Avery Dennison’s MPI800 series of textured and high-tack interior wall decoration films is available in a choice of six options, including canvas, crushed stone and natural stucco.

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Vehicle wraps are a growing application for wide format print; Spandex is one of the suppliers who can advise

Zünd UK will demonstrate two different cutters: the 3.2 x 3.2m G3 3XL3200 and the more compact S3 L1200, which has a working area of 1.8 x 1.2m.

The G3 can process a wide variety of roll media such as textiles, vinyls and banners as well as rigid media including acrylic, MDF, ACM and expanded PVC. Designed for high volume production, this large-format cutting system is uniquely qualified for industrial use and multi-shift, 24/7 operation. 

The company will also be demonstrating as S3 L1200 machine, configured for the cutting and creasing of carton and corrugated sheets, as well as roll media. The cutter will be fitted with a robotic arm to show its productivity and accuracy in automatically picking cut parts off the machine bed, accelerating processes for a range of applications within the sign industry and freeing up operators’ time to work on other tasks.

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GMG Colour will demonstrate its colour management products for automated colour matching and ink optimisation


Of course there will be many more companies exhibiting at this year’s event, including many coming for the very first time. These include ABC Display Industry, Liquid Lens Systems, Merlin Transfers, Premier Paper Group, Protek, Signzworld, Solar Illuminations, Target Transfers, Trade Sign Shop, UK Feather Flags and Viscom LEDs & Frames.

This year’s event will see several new features incorporated into the three days, including the Digital Signage Zone, dedicated to connecting those interested in expanding their business with potential partners and experts able to help people grow into Digital Signage solutions. The area will feature a devoted theatre and an accompanying Digital Café.

SDUK has also partnered with Art Systems to present a new live demo zone called Retail is Detail. This area will put on three demonstrations each day to show visitors how to make their retail and point-of-sale projects more effective.

The area will focus on the latest innovations in retail signage by showcasing cutting edge products from some of Art Systems’ key vendors such as HP, Summa and Onyx.

The Main Stage Theatre will return with all new topics to reflect current industry trends, including: Print Finishing, Interior Décor, Textile Print and Materials, Sustainability and the Environment, Print for Personalisation, and Colour Management and Workflow and of course, the effects of Brexit, whatever they might be by then!

SDUK has also teamed up with Hexis to host this year’s Battle UK Wrap Contest. With two heats and a semi-final taking place on the show floor each day, participants will compete in timed, 10-minute heats. The winners from each day will go head-to-head in the grand finale, on the show’s closing day, Thursday 4 April.

Whichever aspect of the wide-format and related businesses appeals to you, there’s plenty to see and do at the show, so put it in your diary and we’ll see you there.